DRIVING TO KATOOMBA

written by Merlinda Carullo Bobis

DRIVING TO KATOOMBA

— Merlinda Carullo Bobis

Today, you span the far mountains
with an arm and say,
‘This I offer you—
all this blue sweat
of eucalypt.'

Then you teach me
how to startle kookaburras
in my throat

and point out Orion
among the glowworms.

I, too, can love you
in my dialect, you know,
punctuated with cicadas
and their eternal afternoons:

‘Mahal kita. mahal kita.'

I can even save you monsoons,
pomelo-scented bucketfuls
to wash your hair with.

And, for want of pearls,
I can string you the whitest seeds
of green papayas

then hope that, wrist to wrist,
we might believe again
the single rhythm passing
between pulses,

even when pearls
become the glazed-white eyes
of a Bosnian child
caught in the cross-fire

or when monsoons cannot wash
the trigger-finger clean
in East Timor

and when Tibetans
wrap their dialect
around them like a robe

lest Orion grazes them
from a muzzle.

Yes, even when among the Sinhalese
the birds mistake the throat
for a tomb

as gunsmoke lifts
from the Tamil mountains,

my tongue will still unpetrify
to say,

‘Mahal kita. Mahal kita.'

About the poet


Merlinda Carullo Bobis

Merlinda Carullo Bobis is a contemporary Philippine-Australian writer and academic. Born in Legaspi City, in the Philippines province of Albay, Merlinda Bobis attended Bicol University High School then completed her B.A. at Aquinas University in Legaspi City. She holds post-graduate degrees from the University of Santo Tomas and University of Wollongong, and now lives in Australia. Written in various genres in both Filipino and English, her work integrates elements of the traditional culture of the Philippines with modern immigrant experience. Also a dancer and visual artist, Bobis currently teaches at Wollongong University. Her play Rita's Lullaby was the winner of the 1998 Awgie for Best Radio Play and the international Prix Italia of the same year; in 2000 White Turtle won...

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